The WIYATT Blog is dedicated to Lillian L. Burke, my mother.
My mother was Lillian Lula Walker Baldwin Burke, a lot of name for a whole lot of woman. My mom was a wonder. She was my best friend in the good way a mom can be this to her daughter. She scolded when needed, encouraged when warranted and loved entirely and immensely.
I write my first blog about her because on September 20, 2013 I lost her. She came to visit me to attend the Congressional Black Caucus, which is held the third weekend in September each year here in DC and at 68 years of age, she died. It was the worse trauma of my life as I fought “tooth and nail” to save her life administering CPR to her as she lay on my living room floor. But to no avail it was not enough. “I am so sorry, her heart just gave out!” the Medical Examiner kindly explained to me.
And so I began this journey of being in this world motherless. (I must say that I am blessed as my dad is alive and living in NJ and is the best father ever.) My mom knew about my dream to start this blog and this is one of those times she encouraged me to be successful and useful. She said, “Don’t be one of those bloggers who “pontificate”! Do something and make a difference! You are my daughter!”
I was the only baby my mother took home from the hospital, but I was not her only child. She remarried in 1994 and with that union I gained two brothers and a sister. My mother was an educator in Newark, NJ where she grew up. She was a product of the Newark education system attended primary, middle, secondary and college. She received both her BA and Masters degrees from Newark State that is now Kean University. My mother retired after working 30 years in the Newark, NJ Board of Education in multiple positions. She was an active member in her church, unions, sorority – Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. and in her community. She was an aqua-aerobics instructor, a quilter, an avid reader and an all around fun person who worked hard and played harder. She was loved by many and respected by more.
She was a civil rights activist, marching, protesting and fighting the fight all her life. As a young woman she wore an afro and educated and registered people to vote. Her advocacy continued in her profession as she led the fight with community leaders and parents for computer education in the Newark Public Schools. In the early 1980’s leaders did not want to fund computer education to children in Newark, she said “In 20years every person in the world will have to know how to use a computer no matter what career path or job they have.” She was one of the few Vice Principals and later Principals who actually lived in the city of Newark with her students. When we were out and about in the city, she often ran into current and past students and their families and engaged them about their lives.
That was her resume. Her number one job and joy was being my mom. This I can assure you is a bold but honest statement, for every day my mother told me she loved me but more importantly she showed me. Her favorite day to show me was on my birthday which is May 12 and is either on or around Mother’s Day each year. No matter where she was at six o’clock that morning she woke me up and told me the story of how I came to be her child.
She started with the day the doctor told her she was pregnant; how in her sixth month she drove the doctor so crazy about giving her a due date that he just told her, to shut her up, “This baby will be born on May 12!” She told me the story of waking up and how her water broke, my father taking too long to get her to the base hospital and how he went to play basketball (to calm down) while she gave birth. This was the days when fathers were not in the room for births. They were a young couple with an entire ocean between them and their family. My dad was in the Air force stationed at Torrejon, AFB.
I was born a “blue baby” with the umbilical cord wrapped around my throat not breathing and they whisked me away to take care of me. My mom did not see me until almost 24hrs later. On those May 12th mornings it took her about 1/2hr to tell her story and she always ended with when they handed me to her she unwrapped the blanket and stared in amazement that “this little creature was hers to take care of and love”. She made a promise to herself and me that “nothing in this world meant more to her than being a mom”.
My mom and I spent every Mother’s Day of my life together, celebrating mom’s day and my birthday, doing something for the two of us. When we lived in NJ, we went to The City for a Broadway play, a fun day of roaming the streets that ended with us stuffing our faces in some great restaurant. When she moved to the Charlotte, NC area in 2004 we started a tradition of attending church, roaming Charlotte the Queen city and ended our day with a wonderful dinner.
So 2014 will be my first Mother’s Day and birthday without her. I am so glad that in 2013 Mother’s Day fell on Sunday, May 12th and yes we had a BLAST in Charlotte with an added bonus as we were joined by my auntie Blanche aka Sanamu.
This year I am celebrating being a daughter of the most wonderful mom with the launch of this blog. I chose to celebrate and honor her life; and acknowledge my deep sorrow and pain but be true to her wishes and live life as her loved child.
So stay tuned!
Dara – Washington, DC